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Travelling around Seoul, I've often seen the NFC / contactless payment logo in restaurants, shops, and bars.

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However, every time I've tried paying through either contactless American Express and MasterCard cards, or the Apple Pay equivalent, the payment was unable to be read. Is the system in use for contactless in South Korea a proprietary form specific to the country, or can international cards be accepted?

  • 1
    Fascinating question, hopefully someone knows. – Fattie Apr 21 at 18:02
  • Does the corresponding card work when used with chip and PIN? – Michael Hampton Apr 21 at 19:50
  • @MichaelHampton Good question: in Korea I've seen that I just have to dip the card in with the chip part (not swipe on magstripe) BUT there's no need to enter a PIN, so it's an EMV transaction of some kind without need the PIN factor. Which might be similar enough to contactless minus the contactless part. – Ankur Banerjee Apr 22 at 1:19
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    PIN is not required (I never have entered a PIN for my whole life in Korea during offline transactions), and signatures are not required for payment less than KRW 50,000. – revi Apr 22 at 2:03
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There's a rumor that local card companies are not accepting Apple Pay because of fee disputes with Apple and Visa/Mastercard (in Korean)

It doesn't exactly state (foreign) Apple Pay transactions are denied, but I think this might be a factor why the local companies are denying such transactions.

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As of 2019, there are no participating banks in Korea (for Korea issued cards) with Apple Pay. This closest source I found as a reason for no/low adoption in practice of "contactless" as it's known in UK and European bank cards is that the Korean cards industry wants to establish its own NFC payments standard separate from EMV that would allow cheaper payment terminals.

So while it's not possible to use (as on 2019) to use Apple Pay or contactless EMV directly, there are a few options:

  • Samsung Pay: Supports a mode that emulates the magstripe at the back of the card, and might work with terminals within Korea which seem to have wide support for this method. YMMV.
  • T-Money, CashBee etc: Primarily transportation cards that are preloaded with credit, but seem to be accepted in some shops for payments.

The other widely accepted option is QR code based payment using Kakao Pay, but this can only be used with a KakaoTalk account linked to a Korean phone number (tourists might not have this), plus ID verification with a Korean resident ID. The linked cards for topping up Kakao Pay needs to be issued within the country too.

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    The local one (called Just-touch) has been cancelled by Oct 2018, and Samsung Pay should work on most shops as most of (not all have magnetic, & certain franchises have/had a policy not to accept Samsung Pay to promote their own scheme) the card terminals have magnetic swipe- option as a fallback in addition to IC chip-in (Chip-in is the default). – revi Apr 29 at 2:27

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